Our budget is a weeeee bit tight this week (who's isn't?) so I'm digging deep to find out what new goodies I can create from what I have on hand.  Gotta keep with the resolution, right?  I'm looking and looking... I have olives, cheese, veggies from the garden... I am going to attempt homemade pizza.  EEK!  Long story short, it was so freaking awesome!  Wish I had pictures, but I was feeding four hungry kids under 5 years old.  You do the math on that one.  :)

I started with this recipe, read all the reviews (I swear that's the best part) and here is what I ended up with:

Pizza Crust

3 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 T. olive oil (plus a bit more for drizzling on the dough)
1 (.25 ounce) package dry yeast
1 T. white sugar
1 C. warm water

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water.  Set aside and let stand until frothy (10ish minutes.)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Drizzle in the 2 tablespoons olive oil and then mix in the set-up yeast mixture.  Knead until dough is formed and then set aside in a bowl coated in olive oil and covered lightly.  Let rise for 30 minutes.  Knead once more and let rise for an additional 15 minutes.

For the kiddos, I formed six, 8-inch pizzas.  Each kid was able to decorate their own and even mama and papa got a pizza.  I literally just used what we had on hand... the remainder of a can of olives, half an orange pepper, and basil and green onion from the garden.  I think all we bought was some pepperoni for the Handy Husband.  I guess a guy has to have his meat, right?

I tried a pizza sauce recipe too, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.  Don't get me wrong, it was totally edible and there wasn't a single complaint from the kids (miracle!)  But for my taste, it was too heavily scented and flavored with olive oil.  And the seasoning didn't quite hit the mark either.  But, guess what.  That's life.  Sometimes you have a kickin' recipe and other times it's just, "meh."

At the end of the day, homemade pizza was surprisingly easy, the kids ate every last bite, and, when served up with a salad from the garden, it is awesomely budget-friendly.

xo, k


Tartar Sauce

Tartar sauce... some people are lovers, some people are haters.  I am in the lover camp.  Maybe it's my Seattle upbringing, maybe it's my deep deeep deeeeeep love of pickles, but I cannot imagine a world of fish and chips without the stuff!  So in my yearly effort to expand our eating habits and be more creative, I decided not to limit myself to just new main course recipes.  Sides are important too!  And condiments!  For those of you who know me, I am a condiment addict.  Don't judge.  It's a family problem. 

So here is the recipe I've been working with (via Simply Recipes):

Tartar Sauce
- 1C. mayonnaise
- 1/2 C. chopped dill pickles
- 1 t. capers, chopped
- 2 t. dijon mustard
- 2 t. shallots, chopped
- 2 T. scallions, chopped
- 2 t. lemon juice
- 6 drops Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)
- salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  Mix it up!

YUM!  So freaking good I can't even stand it!  The capers and Tabasco were game changers for me.  Seriously.  Now, I know not everone has shallots and scallions on hand.  Heck, I don't.  Here is the alterations I've made and what has become a staple in our household:

Kate's ever so slightly adapted variation:

- 1 C. mayonnaise
- 1/3 C. dill pickles, finely chopped
- 1 t. capers, chopped
- 2 t. dijon mustard (can sub in regular, but dijon hits the sweet spot)
- 2 t. shallots, chopped (or sub. 1 1/2 t. dried onion flakes... use watcha got)
- 2 t. lemon juice
- 1T. fresh dill, chopped
- 6 drops Tabasco sauce (or more if there are no kiddos eating)
- omit all salt and pepper... doesn't need it!

Directions:  Mix it up, yo!

So here are my notes on the subject:
1.  I usually have dijon, but ran out last week so I had to use the regular stuff in a pinch.  Guess what?  It totally worked.  The difference was subtle and please use dijon if you have it, but you won't be left crying your milk if you don't.
2.  The dried onion flake substitute totally works!  Just make sure to let the mixture sit a little longer so the flavors meld together and the onions can rehydrate a bit.  15 minutes with two stirs during that time usually does the trick.
3.  Gotta have fresh dill.  Period.  I grow it in the garden so it's an easy add-in.
4.  Salt and pepper... no need.  The capers actually add a bit of salt and I didn't feel like the pepper added anything.
5.  I chose to omit the scallions.  I made the tartar sauce both ways and, in the end, preferred the recipe without it.

So there you go.  A new absolute favorite!  Way to go Elise Bauer!

xo, k


New Recipe Compile

Oh, man.  I've been slacking on updates, but I'm really, really proud of myself!  I've been cooking up a freakin' storm!  Here's the recipe rundown:

1. Portage Parmentier**
2. Alfredo Sauce***
3. Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce
4. Lasagna Roll-ups*
5. Red Cabbage Salad with Feta and Mint**
7. Tilapia Fish Tacos (2 versions... we've been taste testing!)***
8. Dandelion Jelly***
9. Momofoku Soba Noodles with Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce**
10. GP's No-Fry Fries*
11. GP's Best Stir-Fried Chicken
12. Pho
13. Scalloped Potato and Herb Tart***
14. Spaghetti al limone
15. Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce**

There are a few more, but I haven't been so good at writing down the recipes.  There are also one or two complete failures that I'd rather forget.  Ha!  Here's what the marking above mean.

* ="kid approved"
** = Mama's new fav!

Here are the things I've learned so far:

1.  My fish-hating kids LOVE tilapia.  Who knew?
2.  Homemade fries beat the frozen stuff by a mile.  They are also waaaay cheaper... especially if you can grow your own!
3.  My family is trying more new foods with less fight (if you have toddlers, I don't need to tell you what a miracle this is.)
4.  Dr. Oz is apparently a big fan of a varied diet (tidbit provided by his #1 fan... my mom!)
5.  I'm incorporating a wider range of veggies than before.
6.  We are actually more hungry for seasonally appropriate things.  I think this is because my monthly mag's are suppling plenty of seasonal inspiration!  No time for out-of-season tomatoes.
7.  The family is a big fan of gruyere cheese.

Overall, it's been an awesome way to keep the family guessing.  While it's been a challenge, and we've eaten a few late dinners due to "miscalculations in preparation time", I'd say we've still come out on top.  There are even a few new recipes in regular rotation!  I also discovered that I may never, ever in a million freakin' years buy tartar sauce again.  Honestly, that one single recipe changed my life.  Coming from a "fish and chips" kind of town, you really have to get a good tartar sauce recipe, and this one is a keeper.

In any event, I will publish links as I dig them up.  I'll also add to the list so check back for updated information.  This week I'll be making stuffed pasta shells (traditional cheese stuffing, but I'll work in some spinach from the garden... yum!)  so I'll let you know how that goes.

xoxo, k


Free Ranging Ladies!

Make no mistake about it.  I am a chicken-a-holic.  This is only fueled by the fact the HH won't let us get chickens.  Forbidden fruit, right?  Anyway, I was headed home from work yesterday when I noticed three chickens just wandering down the sidewalk!  Obviously I pulled over.  I mean, really.  Chickens cruising the bus line?  Awesome!

Well, I only know one chicken owner on that block (oh, God.  I now sound like a chicken stalker!)  So I went over and knocked on his door.  "Ummm, are you missing some chickens?  I just found three wandering down the street."  Turns out he wasn't missing any, but we got to talking and he said he was adding a few Ameracauna chicks to his flock this year!  In case you don't know, they lay beautiful blue eggs.  *sigh*  Anyway, even though they weren't his chickens, we had an awesome "chicken love-fest" talk and he gave me the most precious gift for being a good neighbor and looking after the local flocks...

So what else is a girl to do?  I decided to cancel what I was gong to serve the boys for dinner (I'd probably have to force-feed them the yummy risotto I had planned to make anyway) and they had breakfast for dinner.  YUM!

I'm not sure my iPhone photos do this egg enough justice.  It was a really deep shade of yellow.  So much more brilliant than your grocery store variety.  Anyway, I added some Kashi waffles and fruit and it was perfection.

Well, you heard it here first.  People still appreciate a good neighbor.

xoxo, k

PS.  I did end up finding the actual owners and apparently "the girls" like to go for a little walk every now and then.  Ha!


Silly Plant!

Two days of sunshine and my alpine strawberry has gone bananas!  Seriously.  What are you thinking little plant?

Could it be?  Strawberries in April?  Be still my beating heart...

But I can't judge.  I felt just about like this little strawberry after two days of sun and dirt under my fingers.  In fact, I was feeling so jazzed off two days of glorious spring weather that I took this slightly embarrassing self-portrait with my collards.  Yup.  Me and collard greens.  Take it in.

Oh, Lord.  

What can I say?  I was high off sunshine.  I had just planted King Richard leeks, rocket arugula, early wonder and bull's blood beets, Ingot carrots and French Breakfast radishes.  My peas are up too.  One more?  I discovered that my raised beds had become glorified worm bins over the winter.  It was a beautiful, beautiful day.

Now get out there and dig in the dirt!

xo, k


Resolutions - Part II

When last I wrote, I clued you in on my first New Year's Resolution.  Make a new recipe every week.  Today I want to talk about Resolution #2... and it's an embarrassing one.

My name is Kate and my master bedroom looks like it was just struck by a tornado.

Here's the scoop.  I've never really spent time and energy creating a beautiful bedroom.  I'll paint and throw up some curtains, but that's about it.  Now, with two young boys scooting around the house, my bed is constantly covered in books and toys, laundry is piled up in baskets waiting to be folded, the top of my dresser has become a dumping ground for odds and ends.  It's just a mess.  At one point, we started to paint, but we never finished.  Other items popped up and painting was pushed lower and lower on the endless list of projects that needed completing.

So here we are... 2013.  The year I will have a proper bedroom.  By God, it will have paint!  And curtains!  And sconces!  And artwork!  The bed will be kept free of Cheerios and monster trucks!  It will be a space for two tired parents to (God forbid) have a decent conversation and even some snuggling (GASP!)  Moreover, I will fall asleep peacefully and not wake each day faced with a mess.  Who wants to wake up to laundry that needs folding?!?  Not me!

I'm giving myself a year, because I'm realistic.  I am a wife and a mother.  I grow a ton of veggies and work too.  That adds up to a really full plate.  Besides, I know this will take a huge shift in habit too.  I've let my bedroom become the playroom, laundry room, tv room, work zone... all those things but a peaceful respite.  So now I have to change old habits and re-identify the room.  I'm sure there will be a little back-slide from time to time, but I have to keep moving forward.  I think my marriage and my sanity deserve it.  ;)

So I'll leave you with a little inspiration from The Binder.  This, my friends, is what I hope to achieve!

Happy Monday!

xoxo, k


Resolutions - Part I

Every year, I struggle with a New Year's resolution.  Perfect example?  I'm typing this on Saturday... January-freakin'-19th.  Yup.  Enough said.  This year, I've identified a few areas of my life I'd like to work on.  I'll talk about them in phases so I don't scare myself.  ;)

The first resolution is to cook more.  Specifically, I would like to try a new recipe every week.  Will they all be earth-shattering feats of culinary delight?!?  Nope.  Probably not.  Long story short, I started back to work about a year ago and it really took a toll on the home front (it also affected the blogging, but that's another story.)  I was constantly searching for new, cheap, quick dinners and I think know it affected me in several ways.  You see, I love to cook.  I love to cook good food.  I once described it to my husband as a meditative exercise after a long day.  So when I went back to the quick and cheap, it made me feel unfulfilled.  I was also guilty of fixing quick dinners for cranky, hungry kids and the "family dinner" was tossed aside several times per week.  Totally unacceptable.

This year, I want to recommit myself to creativity in the kitchen and maintain the sacred family dinner.  Specifically, I want to incorporate ingredients from the garden in this exercise.  I'll be growing a few new varieties this year (romanesco, anyone?) so I'm excited to work that into my cooking.

To do a little catch-up, I started with the year with this recipe:

Potage Parmentier 
(Potato & Leek Soup)
- Julia Child

1lb potatoes, pealed and diced 
3 cups leeks, thinly sliced (white and tender green parts only)
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
4-6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2-3 tablespoons softened butter
2-3 tablespoons minced parsley or 2-3 tablespoons chives

1.  Simmer vegetables, water and salt to ether, partially covered, 40-50 minutes until vegetables are tender.

2.  Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork or puree in blender.  Correct seasoning.

3.  Off heat and just before serving, stir in cream or butter by spoonfuls.  Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with the herbs.

4.  Good hot, cold or room temperature.

Leeks and potatoes from my garden

A few notes for future preparations:

- I used 3 tablespoons whipping cream and 1.5 tablespoon butter (I figured half of each would be a nice balance... and it was!)  
- It was a bit salty for my taste, so I will cut it back to 1/2 tablespoon salt next time.  
- Mental note... DO NOT OVER-FILL BLENDER.  Unless you like to clean.  If so, go right ahead and knock your socks off.  Next time, I'll blend just a few small ladle-fulls at a time.
- I garnished it with minced parsley and a little bit of sour cream... perfection!  
- I used leftover leeks and potatoes from the garden. 

Overall, I was shocked that such a simple soup came together this beautifully.  I fully admit I had my doubts when adding two quarts of water, but Julia came through (why did I even doubt her?)  Smooth, simple, clean flavors... the perfect opportunity to showcase the garden's flavors.  Will I make it again?  Sure!  I also may use it as a base for some other concoction.  Hmmm... 

Oh my gosh!  I almost forgot!  When pulling the leeks out of the garden, I was able to separate off new baby leeks that had sprouted from the base of the plants (they start out as bulbs attached to the base of the leek).  I now have a dozen baby leeks planted out and ready to get this 2013 garden party started.  Yahoo!

xo, k


The Crud. Blek.

Just like everyone else on earth, I've been struggling to fight off "the crud" (or at least that's what we call it). It's not easy with little people to take care of, but at least I have a mom and dad who know how to make me smile...

So thanks, guys. I love you too!



This time of year is just cruel.  The ground is frozen harder than a rock and all the seed catalogs have arrived in the mail.  I've also had "the crud" so I've been locked indoors perusing the catalogs and plotting.  To say I'm "itching" to get outside would be an understatement!  With my new backyard design in the works, it makes it even harder (did I mention our master bedroom looks out on the backyard in all it's ramshackle glory?  *Sigh*)

In thinking about my backyard (which is actually my side yard due to the shape of our lot) I've settled on the idea that I want it to be a decorative space.  However, I still want to add a few edible elements (you know me... I love to eat what I grow).  So what was the first flower to come to mind when thinking of a decorative yet edible element?  Lavender!

I know, I know.  Most people don't think of lavender this way, but really it has many fabulous attributes.  Namely, I could use it to make my own homemade herbes de provence.  Oh, man.  I love this herb mix like nobody's business!  I'm sure you all know that so much of our taste experience is affected by smell.  Well maybe that's why this herb mix is so incredible... it's like eating the savory, the delightful, the sweet... everything.

And what will I make with this delicious herbes de provence mix?  This Chicken Pot Pie topped with puff pastry.  Incredible. Why don't I have a photo of it?  Not sure, but probably because I'm too busy thinking of eating it.  Long story short, my mother-in-law has been saving recipes for years.  When we were living with them during the big remodel, she busted out this oldie (Sunset Magazine, 3/01) and I just about died!  I've been making it ever since.

Maybe next winter I'll be sipping this too...

Does this look incredible, or what?!?  (รก la mode's recipe can be found here)

So here's to more lavender in the new year!

xo, k


Backyard Plans

I think I have gardening ADD.  I start one project, then notice a weed in an adjacent bed that needs to be pulled, then I discover a perfectly ripe veggie... an hour later, the handy hubby is calling out from the front door, "I thought you were just going to plant two more seeds!?!"

So last week when I was out clearing off the back patio, it should be no surprise that my cleaning turned into pruning (every six months or so I attempt to tame Cecile.)  As I headed back to the yardwaste can with another mountain of clippings, I nearly killed myself trying to avoid stepping on a huge leaf growing out of the lawn.  What was it?  Turns out I have a calla lily growing up through the overgrown backyard lawn.  Seriously.  10 feet away, I discover a rose bush... also growing out of the lawn!  Of course I share the fun discoveries with the husband and he says, "Oh, ya.  I know.  I plow right over those suckers every time I mow the lawn!"  WHAT?!?  *Sigh*  

I've always pushed the backyard down to the bottom of the "to do" list.  We actually refer to it as the dog's yard.  Our pup likes to go out there and run around and throw toys, but it's always been a mess.  It's inconvenient to access and completely overgrown with weeds.  There are also half-dead plants and weird garden "treasures" left by the previous owners so it's just plain depressing.  Well, I think that may change.

On the bright side, it has lovely star jasmine growing along the fence, my buddy Cecile, a gorgeous lilac tree and now a sweet calla lily and honor rose (I found the tag in the weeds!)  With a little elbow grease (and a whole lot of mulch) I actually have the start of a pretty little English garden!  I also have a few plants that don't quite fit in the front that would make lovely additions to the back.  There is a pale pink hollyhock (a gift from my sweet friend) and a gigantic blue hydrangea that just don't fit in with the front yard's color palette.  Again, with some massive weeding and a little transplanting, I think I have the start of something special.  I'll share more precise details later, but for now I'll leave you with a few images that are inspiring my plans!

A cottage herb garden in Chelsea, England... loving the lavender, iris, alliums and a bit of sage! (via)

How can I NOT go completely bananas over a rosemary topiary?!? (image source unknown)

This beautiful garden really has it all... height, texture, boxwoods, roses... (via)

Now if only Seattle would make it's way back into the 40's, I'd be out there starting to make this little garden happen!

xo, k